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Archive for Wednesday, October 9, 1996

AGENCY CREATES MEDICAL SAFETY NET

October 9, 1996

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Health Care Access, Inc.

Address:1920 Moodie Rd.

Hours

Three years ago, Ronda Miller was seriously ill and needed medical attention. She couldn't afford health insurance, but she didn't qualify for Medicaid, either. She wondered where to turn. Then, someone referred her to Health Care Access Inc.

Health Care Access provides a medical safety net for people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. At the clinic,1920 Moodie Rd., people are provided basic primary care, emergency dental care and, in some cases, a referral to a specialist. There is a fee, but no one who qualifies is turned away. The clinic's receptionists, Laurie Finley and Ricci Wolken, talk prospective patients, who must meet income requirements, through the guidelines and will refer them to other services if they don't qualify.

The first stop for a qualified patient is one of the clinic's two advanced registered nurse practitioners, Kristi Williams, who works full time, and Shirley Dinken, who works part time. The nurse practitioners work under the supervision of volunteer medical director, Dr. Brad Phipps. Patients who need to see a doctor are scheduled for an appointment when volunteer doctors come to the clinic.

A patient who needs a specialist's care can receive a referral for a one-time consultation, if a volunteer specialist is available in the field. Payment for any treatment beyond the first visit must be worked out between the specialist and the doctor.

Williams said, "I think our patients feel that they're getting as good of care here as they would at a private facility. We try very hard to make sure they do."

Health Care Access also works to help its clients fill prescriptions. Some pharmaceutical companies offer their products free to indigent patients, and the clinics receptionists help clients fill out the applications for the drugs.

Filled prescriptions also can come from the clinic's volunteer doctors, who often pass on free drug samples they receive from the manufacturers.

If the prescription isn't available either of these ways, the clinic offers a voucher program to cover the cost of prescriptions. Patients are asked to contribute a portion of the cost if they are able, so the clinic can help as many people as possible, said Carol Stambaugh, executive director of Health Care Access.

"We try to maximize every resource," she said.

Health Care Access also provides dental care, but Stambaugh said she would like to see those services grow.

"Our dream is to be able to have a dental clinic for primary care," Stambaugh said. Currently, they can see only people in pain. Those cases are referred to volunteer dentists, who relieve the cause of pain for one tooth per visit. No preventative care is available, which means that by the time patients come to Health Care Access, the problem may be in an advanced stage.

Health Care Access has grown rapidly since its start in 1988. It began that year with $500 and one volunteer. Its 1996 budget is $187,000, most of which came from a grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The United Way provided $13,363. For 1997, the United Way contribution will be $16,913.

The clinic also gets a lot of support from the community, Stambaugh said.

"The reason we can offer the services we do and reach so many people is that we have so many great volunteer doctors and nurses," Stambaugh said, "and Lawrence Memorial supports us so well."

Stambaugh said the clinic receives the equivalent of almost double its annual budget in services donated by more than 100 doctors, dentists, nurses, and dietitians, the hospital and Mt. Oread Medical Arts Center.

The clinic's case load continues to grow each year, Stambaugh said. With the recent changes in the nation's welfare laws, she said, she expects the demand to increase even more.

If patients didn't have access to the clinic, Stambaugh said, their condition might worsen until they were forced to the emergency room. She has had patients tell her that if they hadn't heard about Health Care Access, they probably would have died.

Ronda Miller is appreciative of what Health Care Access did for her.

"I would have had to go on welfare," she said. "I don't think we need one more person on welfare."

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